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Growth by Digital

York Wallcoverings

Part 1 of 2

By Melissa Donovan

Wallpaper, or more commonly referred to as wallcoverings, are an inexpensive way to brighten up a home, office, or retail space. With the use of digital printer technology, wallcoverings are customizable, speed to market is cut in half, and inventory is lessened.

A long history in the wallpaper business, creating unique patterns and textures using surface, gravure, rotary screen, and flexograph printers, sets York Wallcoverings, of York, PA apart from the competition. Established in 1895, the company’s craftsmanship and dedication to preserving history is clear.

"The diversity is evident in our range of wallcoverings and customers," explains LeRue Brown, director of marketing, York. The company serves high-end to mid-market and mass-market customers, including residential and commercial, across the U.S. and 50 countries internationally. Direct sales forces carry certain brands into the market and others go through independent distributors. Well-known designers such as Tommy Bahama and Candice Olson collaborate with York to provide brand aesthetics through printed wallcoverings.

Short Run Murals
In 2009 York purchased a wide format SOLJET PRO III digital printer from Roland DGA Corporation. Its initial intended use was for product prototypes. Presenting large retail chains with prototypes that look, feel, and perform identical to the final product are huge selling points. The RoomMates division of York quickly identified a need and potential for short runs of consumer products using the Roland as well.

RoomMates offers XL Murals in 9x15 and 6x10.5 feet. Available at local hardware stores such as Lowe’s or through the company’s Web site, these murals depict licensed characters such as Barbie, Batman, Spiderman, Star Trek, Superman, The Littlest Pet Shop, Thomas the Tank Engine, and more.

XL Murals are printed on a proprietary substrate, branded Surestrip. It is a prepasted material with adhesive on the back. To activate, users dip the paper in a lukewarm bucket of water, then apply to the wall. A brush should be used to firmly attach and smooth out air bubbles. The mural is easily removed by pulling at the two corners, and no residue should be left over.

Utilizing the Web
RoomMates recently launched a custom decal option. Users upload photos to RoomMates’ Web site, specify the area to printed—up to 48x74 inches, and submit. It is truly an on demand, one-off application, according to PJ Delaye, COO, RoomMates division, York. The custom decals are also printed digitally and use peel-and-stick technology.

Another endeavor of York’s involves the licensed properties the company pays royalties for use. There are a variety of characters with limited life at retail. However, on the Web, there is a concentration of customers with interest in rare cartoons. If they enter the character’s name into a search engine, the RoomMates Web site pops up, and customers can order a digitally produced wall graphic.

"It might not sell hundreds of thousands, but it makes sense to sell hundreds. We leverage our digital capabilities with niche items on the Internet," says Delaye.

Future Plans
York plans to add more digital presses to the mix in the near future. However, they continue to use analog processes as well. "We still print on presses obtained in 1895. They provide a unique look that digital will never be able to replicate. Although it is an expensive way to print, it is a different style and truly a strength of our company," says Brown.

Delaye agrees. "If you want to be a player in the wallcovering industry, you have to explore multiple branches of printing processes. This allows for great flexibility in terms of look, feel, and design."

Next week read about media vendors in the wallcovering space and their take on where the highest demand for this application is.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

May2010, Digital Output
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